BOB DE LEON Receives MAMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Jocks Who Box

(Radio Rick Myers, 1975)

      An irate listener once punched me in the mouth.    Please remember, radio schools would graduate “golden throats,” not “golden gloves.”    When a listener wants something, usually it’s an autograph; very few want blood.    Radio industry magazines never advertise:  “Wanted:  Jocks who Box!”   A radio career is a soft, passive profession.   An announcer comes to work, plays some records, and goes home.   Apparently on some days, he limps home.

Jay Michael Stevens preceded me on the air.   On this fateful day, he ended his show by saying, “Radio Rick is next at ten.   Poor Rick, he’s so dumb he thinks Sitting Bull is a talk show.”

Larry Maher and Jay Michael Stevens, 1975

Thanks, Jay.  An American Indian just got insulted.

During business hours, a radio station is sometimes without adult supervision.   This happens when the sales staff and management are out of the office.   When the disc jockeys are left in charge, our station becomes The K-5 Day Care Center.   This was the case when, one hour later, in walks a large man wearing a flat-brimmed cowboy hat, and carrying a trumpet under his arm.    (Soon I would wonder if he had planned to use the trumpet to play “Taps” up an orifice of his least-favorite radio personality.)

This man had the features of an American Indian.   He had the Mexican surname, Fernandez.   He told the receptionist he would like to see Radio Rick, and then waited an incredible two hours for me to finish my show.

I came out to see him and he seemed pleasant enough.   Shifting the trumpet to under his left arm, he introduced himself and shook my hand politely.   It was then he said,  ”I want you to know that Sitting Bull is every bit as good a man as President Ford.”  With that he popped me on the chin!!

One thing about my fights, they never last long.   I’m one of those two-hit guys; you hit me and I hit the ground.   As I received this solitary blow, I took a step back, and my one quickly thought-up counter offensive was to kick this large man “where the sun don’t shine no more.”    This idea might have evened up the odds, but my assailant was content to stop at one punch.    He hadn’t hurt me but he had my attention.

He also got the attention of a witness, Jay Michael Stevens.  Jay was watching through the window to the Production Room studio.   Jay decided that mayhem is best viewed from a position of safety.   In one motion, he turned and locked the studio room door.   He was ready to watch Round Two.

Round Two never happened.  After taking one on the chin, I figured this listener-turned-sparring partner would wail on me until his arms got tired.   Instead, he removed three quarters from his pocket, placed them in his palm, and said, “Now that we’ve made peace….”

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say!   Get out of here!”  I interrupted.  (Under pressure, I’m seldom clever.)  Was it the force of my plea?   I’ll never know, but he abruptly turned and walked out the front door.    To this day, I have no idea why he carried that trumpet, or why he offered the three quarters.

I also didn’t know what Jay had said, so I had no idea why he hit me!  “Fernandez the Ferocious” left the station in a battered, old yellow Ford with Arizona license plates.   The receptionist, Penny Sharrock, another witness, quickly chimed in she would call the police if he returned.    At long last someone was thinking!

The coast was clear, so my disc jockey friend unlocked the studio door, told me what he had said, and admitted that since the Sitting Bull punch line was his, the punch too, should have been his.

The confession, though good for Jay’s soul, came a bit late.   The man who talks with fists had departed.   The saga of Sitting Bull’s revenge had come to an end.    But, a right cross, once delivered, may yet be transferable.   To this day, Jay knows he owes me one.


Be Careful Out There

(Radio Rick Myers, 1975)

  Promoters, from Colonel Tom Parker to P.T. Barnum to the high school teacher who organizes faculty fundraiser basketball games, all ask the question, “How can we promote for free?”  Throughout my radio career the answer was simple:  Create a celebrity event, and invite disc jockeys! Well, why not?   Appeal to our ego, and we’ll go anywhere.    Plus we’ll talk about it on the radio, which is Free Advertising!   Plus radio stations love to get DJs “out in the public eye.”  It’ll be fun.  Listeners enjoy getting to see what their favorite air personalities look like.   Make a good impression and we’ll have more listeners.   What could possibly go wrong?

Photo courtesy of Davis High School. Radio Rick voted school’s favorite disc jockey, 1978

The first mistake is in not asking the question, “Is this dangerous?”   But when asked, the second mistake is accepting the answer, “Hey, that’s part of the fun!” Oakdale is the “Cowboy Capital of the World!”   But to make sure the world takes notice, they created “The Disc Jockey Calf-Tying Contest.”    It’s pretty safe, if you’re a cowboy.    You’ve seen this event:  A young calf, about 150 pounds, is let out a chute.  The cowboy on horseback races out and lassoes the critter.   The rope goes taut, the calf is jerked onto its back, the cowboy jumps off his horse, and while the calf is still dazed, ties up three of its legs.   Done and done in 6 seconds.   It looks easy, so bring on the disc jockeys, and we’ll all have a good time! Out goes the calf, out goes the cowboy on horseback, and out goes the first disc jockey, on foot, falling further and further behind the action.   The cowboy lassoes the little doggie and then sits motionless; where’s the DJ?   The crowd starts to laugh; this is quite a scene.  The doggie staggers to it feet and starts running.   But the rope is one big tether, forcing the little critter to run in a perfect circle, around and around that horse.    The DJ, not in great shape, runs after the calf, losing ground with each stride.   This is Keystone Cop stuff!    After a while, the DJ gives up the pursuit, and waves to the crowd as he walks out of the arena. I’m next and I have a plan!   Out goes the calf, out goes the horseback cowboy, and out I go.  I run straight to the horse!   At the saddle horn I grab the rope, and follow it zip-line style while I chase after the running-in-circles calf.   That solves one problem.   I reach the calf that doesn’t want to slow down.  Here I am, skidding along, holding onto its neck until we finally come to a halt.    The crowd is having a hoot.   The calf is not happy.   I’m to reach over the calf’s body, and jerk upward as my knees buckle into the calf’s ribs, tossing it on its side.      In that bent over position, 150 pounds is a lot of weight.    I manage.   Now my knees fall on the calf’s ribcage.   The calf is kicking up a storm.  My job is to grab three legs and tie them together.   With two hands I grab the three legs.  My little rope is between my teeth.   I need two more hands!   I’m supposed to wrap the rope two times around those legs and then cinch up a Hooey knot.  What’s a Hooey knot??  One leg slips free, so I start over.  Two legs slip free, so I start over.  All three legs slip free, so I start over.    This goes on for a while.   The crowd loves the comedy.   Three minutes go by and my time is up.   My chest is heaving like I just blew up a truck tire.   Several thousand have watched me fail.    Don’t try this at home, folks.  What fun. Next up is Larry Maher, K-5’s afternoon guy.    He liked my “run-to-the-horse-and-grab-the-rope” idea.     Down the rope line he goes.  The calf jumps up and takes off running.    Larry gets to the end of his rope, where he picks up and slams down his calf.   All calves have the same DNA, and this one is another kicker.    Larry gets right down into this buzz saw of flailing legs, and one hoof kicks him right behind the left ear.   Larry is also hapless when it comes to Hooey knots, a rope trick that’s too darn tricky.  Soon his three minutes are up.

Bridal Shows are safer than rodeos! Larry Maher and Captain Fred James, 1976

The crowd’s laughter (this is all good-natured fun, right?) turns to a gasp when they see bright red blood streaming down Larry’s neck.    That fleshy part behind the ear bleeds like a stuck pig.  (I don’t know anything about stuck pigs, but barnyard descriptions seem to fit here).   Larry hadn’t noticed the blood, but three little words got his attention:  “Larry, you’re bleeding!!” An ambulance is always present at rodeos.   It’s all good-natured fun, right?   Today, six stitches and a turban bandage around Larry’s head is all part of the fun. Next week, it’s Celebrity Roller Derby!   What could possibly go wrong?

POST SCRIPT:     At the Celebrity Roller Derby event, they invited us to come down that afternoon and practice on the banked, oval track.  It was a bit tricky, but I learned to go into the corners low and come out high, just like NASCAR.    I won the event, mostly because I stayed upright.   A KTRB DJ thought you win by knocking everybody else down.   He lunged at me; I ducked, and down he went, breaking his arm (hey, it’s all good fun, right?).   The Bay Bombers congratulated me, but offered no contracts. 

Look at that crowd! That night, only one DJ broke a bone.

KTRB owner, Bill Bates, 69

April 3, 1969

Bill Bates Jr.

William H. (Bill) Bates, Jr. died Thursday April 3 ,  1969 of an apparent heart attack while at his daughter’s home in San Jose. He was 68 years old and had been ill and off work for the past three weeks. The apparent fatal heart attack occurred shortly afternoon at the home of his daughter, Delores Williams in San Jose where he had been staying following his release from a hospital where he had been several weeks. He was a native of Freedom, CA (Santa Cruz County).

Mr. Bates entered Oakland Technical High School in 1919 where he studied for his commercial broadcasting license he obtained a year later. He became interested in Amateur (Ham) radio and a year later earned one of the first Amateur radio licenses issued in the country. The call sign was 6KL, which, in later years was changed by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission ) to W6CF . He  belonged to the Century Wireless Association as well as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Hotel Covell , 1914 opening in Modesto, CA,

Mr. Bates worked for RCA corporation and as a radio technician for the Mexican Navy in the early 1920s. From 1925 to 1928 he owned and operated a radio repair business in the Covell building in downtown Modesto before building KTRB in 1933.

Mr. Bates, and his partner, Thomas R. McTammany, put Modesto’s first commercial broadcast station KTRB on the air on June 18, 1933 operating from studios at the corner of McHenry Ave and Sylvan Rd. in Modesto. A location, at the time, that was nearly 3 miles out in the country from the then city limits of Modesto. In 1941 Mr. Bates purchased 40 acres of wheat land on Norwegian Ave. in Modesto and built a new facility. In 1949 he added an FM station, KTRB-FM, to his business.

Mr. Bates had been heard on the station for more than 30 years with his “Old Time Tunes Program”  from 8:15 to 10:30 Monday through Saturday mornings.

He was active in the Elks lodge and the originator of the Fourth of July parade in Modesto. Through the years he remained as the general chairman of the event.

Bates is survived by his widow, Maxine Bates; two daughters, Delores Williams and Carmelita Lockbaum, both of San Jose, and six grandchildren. Final rights were held at the Franklin and Downs Funeral home April 7, 1969 with the Rev. Donald G. Weston of St. Johns Chapel of the Valley officiating. Interment was at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.

Merrily, We Rolls Along

Radio Rick Myers–1976 

  [A radio promotion put me behind the wheel of a Rolls Royce. I wrote about this in 1976]

 To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich, is like supposing that we could drink all day and stay sober.

                                                                 –Logan Pearsall Smith


It was a day unlike any other, the day I drove a Rolls Royce!   When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in a Rolls, do as aristocrats do.   My moment of aristocracy had arrived.

McDonald’s was giving away Flair Ink Pens with Egg McMuffin breakfasts.   KFIV decided to make it Breakfast with a real Flair!   We would chauffeur winners to McDonald’s in Rolls Royce limousines.   Oh, the incongruity!   Similar to “Brooklyn Yankees,” or “Roman Greeks,” the mind will not couple Silver Clouds to Styrofoam cups.

What’s more, the chauffeurs were tuxedoed disc jockeys  (A disc jockey driving a Rolls Royce is another mind-rejecting thought.  Also hard to believe was that we got the cars!   An auto dealer owned a collection of these classics, and he loaned them to us!   I mean would you give the keys to your Rolls to a disc jockey?)

My Rolls–yes I quickly became possessive–was a white 1964 Silver Cloud, with an interior of blue leather seats, a teakwood instrument panel, and a right-side steering wheel.   In the parking lot, I couldn’t even begin!  Who knew that a Rolls Royce transmission will not shift into gear unless a button on the gear-shift lever is depressed?  (Hmmm, to drive a Rolls one must first be smarter than the Rolls.)  I’m sensing trouble here.    And what’s with this rear-view mirror?  Rolls Royce uses convex mirrors which gives more complete viewing, but the mirror delivers the distortion of a fish-eye camera lens.

Let me destroy one myth:  The clock is silent!   For years, I was told the clock’s ticking was the only interior noise.   That myth never made sense, anyway.   Why install a loud clock in a quiet car?  The only mechanical sound was the clicking of the turn signal indicator.

The era dictated the fashions, and I was the cat’s meow, decked out in a brown and apricot tuxedo.   Don’t judge me!   At eight a.m., I was off to chauffeur the first of my two families.

I was pleased that my first winners were “all-in” on this promotion.   The dad and the two sons each wore suits, and the mother wore a floor-length gown!  Dressed to the nines, they were making the most of their Breakfasts with a Flair!

The dad had a facial twitch, who knows why?    It reminded me of a Don Knox routine about an over-stressed air traffic controller.   I was a little nervous as it was, and that blasted convex mirror zoomed an unobstructed, up front and way too personal view of this guy’s twitch.   “Try not to think about it, ole boy,” I told myself, noticing I was starting to formulate thoughts with a British accent.

KFIV Bridal Faire 1976. Radio Rick and Ron Posey, “Mr. Entertainer.” Tuxedoes become us.

The passenger may have twitches but this auto was smooth.    After delivering the winners, the Rolls and I were off to our next adventure.

Our next winners were waiting for the car and me.    In fact, their entire block had assembled for “The Great Rolls Rendezvous.”  The winner’s father was leaning against an elm tree, taking home movies as we approached.  He motioned me to wave at the camera, which I did.  I used the Royal Wave, as used by monarchs and at Rose Parades.

The neighbors—fathers in Saturday work clothes, mothers in house robes, and children, many still in pajamas—congregated around the Silver Cloud.  After the spectators had studied the grill and examined the interior, the four honored guests and this overly proud chauffeur were on our way.

I drove the Rolls cautiously.   On a quarter-mile stretch, you could have timed me, not with a clock, but with a calendar.   The passengers enjoyed the ride.    This was not a hotrod Lincoln.    I figured to gun the engine would be an insult to its noble heritage.

The winners enjoyed a nice breakfast, got their Flair ink pens, and were returned, regally, to their respective homes.   I was the real winner!  I got to drive a Rolls Royce!  I got to play celebrity!  Not only that, I was being paid extra!   Reggie Jackson gets millions for hitting a baseball, and I got paid to drive a 1964 Silver Cloud through the streets of Modesto.   Life isn’t fair; sometimes it’s lop-sided in your favor.

My mother liked to remind us kids that pride cometh before the fall, and here it came.   As I sat majestically on the right-hand side and steered down a country road, tragedy struck!   A terrible, grinding, clanking, gear-stripping noise bellowed from the rear of the car.   This aristocrat of the roadway lurched, then shook, then shimmied like a dying fish gasping for air.  Death was sudden.  After less than a hundred more feet, the Rolls rolled no more.  Later I learned I had dropped the transmission.

I knew what I needed; I needed help.  A broken down Rolls Royce is one of life’s little levelers.  So is walking down Albers Road in my brown and apricot tuxedo.   I walked to a nearby farmhouse.  The farmer heard my story, and all he could say was that common farmer phrase, “Well, if that don’t just beat all!”

Tragedy can turn to comedy if you add enough time.  As I reflect on my day, I can’t help but smile.  From the car, looking out the windshield, I viewed the ultimate incongruity:  just beyond that beautiful Rolls Royce hood ornament,  I also viewed my tow truck.